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The Shameless Clickbait: Thin Mint Girlscout Cookies, Vodka, Espresso, Milk

Alright guys, it’s time to get real. It’s girlscout cookie season, and I enjoyed the opportunity to make this cocktail using a “seasonal” ingredient. It’s like Card-Table-Outside-The-Grocery-Store-To-Table. I know you’re all looking to make thin-mint infused vodka, and pin it to all your friends, so I have made a drink just for you.

Behold! I integrated 2 oz of vodka and two girlscout cookies using an immersion blender, and then pushed them through a fine-mesh strainer. The finer, the better. If you have an 80 micron strainer, that would be ideal. Push the thin mint vodka through the strainer, and then pull a shot of espresso using your fancy espresso machine (you could also use a moka pot, or even a little bit of strong black coffee), add sugar according to your taste, and shake it up like a cafe shakerato.

thinmint

The Shameless Clickbait
1.5 oz Thin Mint Vodka
1 Shot of Espresso or 1.5 oz Strong Coffee
.5 oz Whole Milk
Simple Syrup to your taste

Shake over ice and strain into a glass rimmed with chocolate shavings. Smacked mint leaf more for the photo.

To be honest this didn’t quite have the clarity of flavor I was looking for. Coffee muddied the thin mint a bit, and a dash of creme de menthe would probably have brought it back. Still, if you’re trying to drink thin mints as a cocktail, you could do a lot worse.

Cheers


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Acid Trip Roundup

Perhaps you can relate to this: I had hit a wall in my cocktail creation strategy, because I wanted to combine the flavors of liqueurs and spirits without ending up with a sugary mess. The specific drink that started my mental wheels turning is the Alaska Cocktail, which can be found in various proportions around the internet, but it’s somewhere in the vicinity of:

Alaska Cocktail
1.5 oz Gin
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
Dash of Orange Bitters
Stir and Garnish with a lemon peel.

The problem with this drink, which I hope is immediately obvious to everyone, is that it is very sweet, and has a syrupy mouthfeel. How do we know this, without mixing it? Simple, look at what is missing. There is no fortified wine, there is no citrus juice, and there is no soda water. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I asked myself, what do all of those things have in common?

They are all sources of acid; citric, malic, and carbonic, respectively. I had mixed an Alaska earlier that day, and although I can recognize it as a kind of fancy old-fashioned cocktail with gin as the base and yellow chartreuse as the modifier, it was not satisfying to me. I wanted more chartreuse flavor without more sugar.

I could add a vermouth bianco to try to balance it while minimally impacting flavor, but that’s still a different, albeit a better sounding drink. The question became, how can I make vermouth more sour, so that I can play it off of a larger quantity of liqueur? The answer was to bolster the natural acidity of vermouth.

As luck would have it, winemakers already use powdered tartaric and malic acids to fine-tune the acidity of theirs wines, and such acids are easy to procure. Wines, even fortified wines, are balanced to be consumed on their own, but as a mixological reagent, we often want things to cleave to extremes. We add more sugar and alcohol, but we never think to add more acid.

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I am not the first cocktail enthusiast to have this idea. Since I had this realization, I have found that most books on molecular mixology will have at least one drink that uses a powdered acid to find balance, but they never place enough emphasis on the power of this technique. Using powdered acids to precisely calibrate the “dryness/sweetness” of a drink is THE key to liberation from traditional mixology.

And don’t get me wrong: I love traditional mixology, but I think by now we have fully explored the space of pouring old liqueurs into brown spirits and fortified wines. It’s not that every possible combination has been explored, but certainly, there are no surprises. If we want truly new and creative cocktail ideas, we must be able to break away from the monopoly that the classic punch formula has on the world of craft cocktails. Between the Manhattan and the Whiskey Sour, you have the structure of virtually all prohibition era drinks*.

(*Yes, I know about possets and flips and milk punches and hot toddies and old-fashioned cocktails etc. etc. etc.)

So I bought some acid powders: citric, tartaric, and malic.

AND UNTO THIS, THE ACID TRIP SERIES WAS BORN.

pbj
Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Wheated Bourbon, Peanut Orgeat, Kyoho (or Concord) Grape Juice, Cinnamon

grapeAcidTrip
Kyoho Grape and Lavender

Brandy, Muddled Kyoho (or Concord) Grape, Lavender Bitters

appleAcidTrip
Caramel Apple and Fennel

Fresh-pressed apple juice, Demerara Rum, Caramel Sauce, Absinthe

Acidity is life.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: No More Crèmes in Brûlée – Buttermilk Crème Anglaise, Demerara Rum, Milk, Tonka Bean

Wrapping up my Valentine’s Cocktail Trio, I have a drink inspired by the classic French dessert, crème brûlée. They don’t want you to have craft cocktails, and that’s why it’s important to make them.

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For this drink I made a crème anglaise, and once again, I used my sous vide. This time, I adapted this Chefsteps recipe by cooking the mixture for 20 minutes at 82C, and then blending it until smooth.

Originally I had used whole milk, as the recipe dictates, but the drink lacked a certain depth that can only come from proper acidity. In pursuit of acidity, I substituted whole milk for buttermilk, and this allowed me to develop a crème anglaise with a pleasant lactic tartness.

This ingredient was nearly complete on its own, and required little adornment to become a fully realized drink. At first I tried shaking it with only demerara rum, but the drink was too thick; it was so thick, in fact, that shaking did nothing to aerate it. I wanted an airier texture and a lighter mouthfeel, so I ended up adding some 1% milk to lengthen it. It worked like a charm, allowing the shaken drink to hold some air bubbles and accumulate a pleasant froth.

It’s important to use 1% here, because the drink is already quite rich with milkfat. The goal is to lighten the texture, so whole milk is not appropriate.

I chose to use demerara rum as the base spirit for this drink because I wanted its caramel notes, which are right at home in a crème brûlée.

To cement the theme and round out the caramel element, I garnished with a caramel disk. The imbiber cracks open the caramel disk with a small spoon (not pictured), much as one would a real crème brûlée. Many thanks to Johan for this idea.

As with the Poison Yu, I grated a little bit of tonka bean on this drink, though I put it underneath the caramel disk, so that its aroma would only be released upon cracking the caramel.

For the nibble, I served a round of toasted brioche drizzled with doenjang caramel sauce. Doenjang is a Korean fermented bean paste similar to miso, and it gives the caramel a savory umami note. I was inspired by my recent trip to a Shakeshack, where they were serving miso caramel milkshakes. I also topped the brioche with a bit of smoked salt.

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No More Crèmes in Brûlée
1 oz Demerara Rum (El Dorado 12)
1.25 oz 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons of Buttercream Crème Anglaise
Dash of Angostura Bitters
Shake and double strain, then top with grated tonka bean and a caramel disk. Serve with a small spoon.

Caramel Disk
Arrange granulated sugar on a silpat and then slowly caramelize it into a disk with a propane blowtorch. This takes a little while, so do it ahead of time and store them wrapped in parchment paper in the fridge.

Although this presentation was not as visually stunning as the other drinks in my series, for me, it was the most enjoyable to drink. You may have noticed that I used less alcohol in this one. When I jiggered it with a standard amount, it was slightly too boozy. I prefer to keep all of my drinks in a standard measure, but sometimes you have to break the rules.

The formula is really just an adaptaiton of an old classic, Rum Milk Punch. They drink about the same way.

I hope you had a happy Valentine’s day, or failling that, that you were able to drink away your sorrows.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Heavy Handed Symbolism – Chocolate Liqueur, Blood Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Egg White

Continuing with my Valentine’s Day Trio, course two was a preparation of the classic pairing of chocolate with orange. In this case, we made it two ways, once as a cocktail and once as a macaron. The macaron, pictured below, was a collaboration with my friend Johan, who was instrumental in designing this series.

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For the base of this drink, I used a cocoa nib liqueur, which I have made before, but which I have now updated with a modern technique. The diffusion of sous vide immersion circulators to home cooks has opened up many exciting new possibilities for those who wish to keep it craft. I made this liqueur in a mere two hours, by cooking 6 oz of cocoa nibs in 375 ml of vodka at 60C for ninety minutes. I then strained out the nibs and boiled them in simple syrup for a few more minutes. This is the classic alcohol+water extraction.

I combined the syrup into the infusion according my palate, and allowed it to rest for three days. In this time, the flavors of the syrup and the alcohol will meld together, resulting in a much softer flavor. If you were to taste it immediately after combining, you would find a harsh ethanol note on the backend.

This recipe, despite the fancy ingredients, is really just a take on Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s Amaretto sour. We combine a liqueur base with egg whites and an acidic juice, then use an immersion blender to emulsify the egg white.

There is a small twist, however. Blood oranges, at the peak of their season right now, are not very acidic. They lack the acidity needed to form a stable foam out of egg whites, and as a result, they are not sour enough to balance a sweet chocolate liqueur. The answer to both of these problems is the same; powdered citric acid.

If you can master acidity, you can master cocktail creation. Acidity is the lynch pin of the drink, acidity is life. I slowly blended citric acid into my blood orange juice until it was approximately as sour as lemon juice.

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I am not going to give you a recipe for the macaron. You can figure out how to make macarons on your own, using many fine internet resources, such as Chefsteps. I will, however, provide a note on the buttercream. Johan and I made a German style buttercream by preparing a pastry cream sous vide. (82C for 35 minutes). The resulting product was too set up to use on its own, and we had to blend it in my Vitamix until it was smooth.

We then incorporated the pastry cream into creamed butter, and mixed in some fine cut orange marmalade, some orange bitters, and some Clement Creole Shrub, one of my favorite orange liqueurs. In the middle, we placed a small chunk of candied orange rind, which we boiled in simple syrup for about half an hour. The candied orange provided a nice contrast of texture in the center of the cookie.

To garnish the shell, we embedded some toasted cocoa nibs from Seattle’s own Theo chocolate company into the meringue.

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Heavy-Handed Symbolism
1.5 oz homemade cocoa nib liqueur
1.5 oz blood orange juice
.5 oz egg white
.25 oz simple syrup
Powdered citric acid to taste
Emulsify with a stick blender and then shake gently over ice. Strain only with a hawthorne strainer into a cocktail glass and garnish by dropping chocolate bitters into the foam and then turning them into hearts with a toothpick.

Serve with a chocolate orange macaron and a mandarin orange.

You are, I have no doubt, wondering why this drink is called Heavy-Handed Symbolism. I came up with this name only after I had fully realized its recipe, but I found that I had included egg white, representing fertility, blood orange juice, representing blood or passion, and chocolate, which represents that love is sometimes bitter sweet. #sorrynotsorry

Out of the drinks in the set, this one probably had the best reception, though I am quite proud of all of them.

Cheers.


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Valentine’s Cocktail Trio: Love Letter – Raspberry, Calvados, Malic Acid, Rose Air

For Valentine’s day, I invited some of my close friends over for an intimate cocktail party with an emphasis on technique. The first drink in my series was made with raspberry coulis ala Jacques Pepin, and topped with a rosewater sucro foam.

This project was a collaboration with my good friend Johan, whose interest in modernist cuisine was instrumental in creating these concepts. He was the one who suggested a raspberry powder, and as you can see, it is vibrant upon the plate.

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I have been chasing “soap sud” style foams for a while, and I finally found the right compound to make it. As critical as I was of José Andrés Bazaar Meats, they did clue me in to the appropriate recipe for a stable soap sud foam. To the best of my knowledge, Ferran Adria is the man who first had the idea to use sucrose esters to create this style of drink. In the past I had tried using soy lecithin, but the final product was too unstable to sit upon a plate, and would begin to approach soy milk.

For the raspberry coulis, I was inspired by this recipe for raspberry velvet from Jacques Pepin, who is a culinary hero of mine. The method is simple, and the resulting product is both sweet and tart. Upon mixing it into a drink, the flavor became dull, so I added additional malic acid and sugar to bring it back to life.

Initially I used brandy for the base spirit, but the flavor was too harsh. As I was tuning the drink, I was reminded of the common juice pairing of apple and cranberry, so I reached for my trusty bottle of calvados. Its soft and mellow flavor was the perfect base note for the tart purée.

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To garnish, pulverize freeze-dried raspberries and sift them through a fine mesh strainer. I put down a cocktail glass and tapped the strainer to create an empty circle on the serving tray.

To make the candied fruit, brush raspberries, blueberries, and rose petals with egg white, and then roll them in sanding sugar. It is important to use sanding sugar here, as granulated or powdered sugar will dissolve. Allow them to dry, uncovered, for at least six hours. They will keep for about two days.

In the picture, you can see that I used a mint leaf, but in practice this turned out to be a little tooth-pastey. A red rose petal, on the other hand, is subtle and tasteful.

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Love Letter
1.5 oz Raspberry Coulis ala Jacques Pepin
1.25 oz Calvados
1/4 tsp Malic Acid
1 Barspoon of Simple Syrup
1 Dash of Angostua Bitters
Shake and strain through a fine-mesh strainer
Top with Rosewater Air
Garnish With Candied Berries and Raspberry Powder

Rose Air
1/2 cup of water
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon sucrose ester
Blend using a stick blender with a whisk attachment, or an egg beater.

Raspberry Powder
Pulverise freeze-dried raspberries in a mortar and pestle.
Sift them through a fine-mesh strainer

Candied Berries
Brush berries with egg whites and roll them in sanding sugar.

To be honest, I always feel like drinks with airs, foams, spheres, and other molecular trickery end up a little bit gimmicky. The gimmick takes away from the purity of the form, and unfortunately, this was no different. On the one hand, it is undeniable that the rose aroma contributed to the experience of this drink, both in appearance and flavor, but at the same time, there is a sense that it’s all a bit of a trick.

Still, I hope you enjoyed it. Cheers.


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Las Vegas Bar Crawl: Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Continuing with my Las Vegas bar crawl, I visited the Mandarin Oriental. Long-time readers may remember my visit to the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. I have also patronized the one in Hong Kong as part of an apocryphal and unblogged bar-crawl I performed in that city. Maybe someday, I will tell you about it.

Being a serial patron of Mandarin Orientals, I entered their Vegas incarnation expecting a safe menu and a pleasant, luxurious space. They met my expectations on both counts. There are not very many places in Vegas that strive for understated class; even the upscale bars strive for bombastic opulence. After two day days striding through gaudy casino floors, the Mandarin was a welcome exercise in tasteful restraint. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it draws an older crowd.

It was the only time in the whole trip when I did not feel like a million demons of avarice and hedonism were bearing down upon me. For that, they get a very high score.

menu

Above is a shot of their menu. As you can see, the decadent nihilism of Las Vegas is fully manifest in the flowery language used to describe the drinks. I’m going to say some critical things about these drinks, but I want to emphasize that all of them were balanced, drinkable, and inoffensive, which is more than I can say for the other bars in my Vegas crawl. This was the best of the bunch.

robinshood

Robin’s Hood
Dried apricot-infused Glenmorangie, Cognac, Drambuie, Carpano Antica, Benedictine

This was one of the bar’s signature drinks. In the two years that have elapsed since my earlier visit to the Mandarin Oriental, my respect for them has grown. Relative to Tokyo, their overall score was average, but in other cities, they are a reliable place to order a well-made drink.

As you can see, there are a lot of ingredients in this cocktail, and the outcome is a predictable brown, bitter, and stirred. The split base and the apricot infusion (one or the other would have been fine) was exactly the sort of unecessarily baroque choice that is typical of Las Vegas.

teatini

Tea-Tini
Bourbon, chilled jasmine pearl tea, apple juice, agave nectar

Aside from the name of this drink, I found it to be unimpeachable. The contents of the glass fulfilled all of the promises made by the menu, and the flavors were successful together. Tea drinks can be difficult, and the Mandarin’s bar contains several of them. I would drink this again.

theharmoniouspear

The Harmonious Pear
Pear-infused tequila, apple, clove, cinnamon, cognac, lemon, ginger liqueur, honey-sage syrup

Good grief! No fewer than eleven ingredients, and half the drinks on the menu are like this. This feels like two interesting drinks poured together: Pear-infused tequila, lemon, ginger liqueur, honey sage syrup. That’s one. Apple, clove, cinnamon, cognac, that could easily be another. You get a bit of a pass since half of the ingredients could be called a “winter spice melange”.

That said, this drink was light, refreshing, and fruity. It managed to have a complexity of flavor without turning completely into mud.

grandmasmule

The Golden Leaf
Hendrick’s, Aperol, muddled mandarins, pineapple, lime

To be honest, the picture above might have been a different drink. The presentation was all a bit samey. I remember this drink having a nice orangey flavor from the aperol, and very little pineapple. It was less tiki than it sounds.

In closing, if you are seeking a pleasant mixed drink in a tasteful bar in Las Vegas, you probably won’t do better than the Mandarin.


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Las Vegas Bar Review: José Andrés Bazaar Meats

I took a trip to Las Vegas, and I would have been remiss had I not taken the opportunity to visit some of the more notable bars. Bars abound in Vegas, but most are the sort where you order Fernet on the rocks. I did some research ahead of time, and I made it to most of the ones on my list.

The first was as José Andrés’ Bazaar Meat. Andrés is a protégé of Ferran Adria, of elBulli fame. His bar and restaurant are not competing at the tier of his mentor, and in fact, the space itself is understated. Compared to the rest of Las Vegas, it is downright plain, though it fits with the minimalism (some might say, dumpiness) of the SLS, the casino/hotel that contains it.

bar

As you can see, the space is uninspiring. The bar is designed to emphasize function over form, and the harsh red lighting is anxiety-inducing. Clearly, this is a place that has sacrificed aesthetics in order to cater to a high volume of customers. Many of the small plates we ordered followed this philosophy; the platings and concepts did not live up to my hopes for a big name chef like Andrés.

As a counterpoint to these criticisms, the barstaff was well organized, and executed our drinks with consistency and aplomb. Despite my many criticisms, I believe that their failures were strategic, as opposed to tactical, in nature.

dirtymartini

“New Way” Dirty Martini
Belvedere Unfiltered martini with olive spherification and olive brine air

I ordered both this drink and the famous Ferran Adria “salt air” margarita. They were similar, both employing a salty “air” made by blending water with sucro, a proprietary sugar ester that can form stable soap-sud-like foam when aerated. The picture of the magarita looked exactly the same. The margarita version was better.

To me, this drink didn’t taste much like a martini. Astute readers will notice that it contained no gin and no dry vermouth. Scandalous! In fact this tasted like a glass of cold olive brine with salty soap suds on top. It had nothing that I enjoy about a dirty martini and two different molecular gimmicks. I’ve had sucro airs on cocktails before, and they can be very effective, but this drink was simply bad.

There was also a reverse-spherified olive sitting at the bottom of the drink. Unlike sucro airs, reverse-spherification is always disgusting. Without a doubt, it is the worst tool in the molecular gastronomists’ arsenal.Novelty has its place, but it must sit atop a foundation of quality.

leatherette

Leatherette (Leather-Aged)
Old Overholt rye whisky, Spanish brandy, sherry, sweet vermouth, leather

This cocktail was aged, not in a barrel, but in a leather bag that they keep at the bar. I have always wanted to put the flavor of leather into a mixed drink, but this was not the leathery libation of my dreams. The fortified wines overpowered all of the other flavors, leaving me with an oxidised (in a good way), acidic mess that had some leather in the-mid sip, but ultimately did not deliver on its promise.

This drink would have been much better as an old fashioned, and with a bourbon instead of a rye; great concept, disappointing execution.

aladdinmanhattan

Aladdin Manhattan “Smoked”
Buffalo Trace bourbon, vermouth, aromatic and orange bitters

I do not have much to say about this one. It is a fully standard Manhattan, smoked in a bottle. It was made with tasteful spirits, it was well-mixed, and it was well-smoked. Although this type of presentation is now commonplace in the world of haute mixology, I enjoyed the drama.

trufflesandbees

Truffles & Bees
Grey Goose La Poire vodka, honey, truffles, lemon juice, bubbles

The juicey, sweet qualities of this drink were redeemed by the intrigue of truffle essence. Clearly, the essence in question was of the synthetic variety, but I wanted a truffle cocktail, and I got one. The flavors were balanced, and the truffle, which could have easily been overpowering, was subtle. I think I would have preferred some kind of green herb as a garnish on this one, but it was more successful than not.

If you find yourself at this bar, it was worth ordering, but it wasn’t worth the trip. Then again, visiting a restaurant by a top name chef is less about the quality of the food and more about the social signal it sends.

In addition to the drinks, my party ordered a variety of small plates, and a grilled skirt steak. They were good but not outstanding. The best bite I had was a tiny sphere of foie gras mousse surrounded by cotton candy. It was cheaky and playful. The worst bite I had were the so-called patatas bravas, which amounted to thick-cut french fries decorated with aioli.

I enjoy trying new restaurants, and the experience of discovery and adventure is worth the price even if the food and drink itself is disappointing, as it was in this case. If you find yourself in the SLS (a dubious choice), you would do much better to go to the Umami Burger adjacent to Bazaar Meat. They’ve never steered me wrong.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)

Continuing in my fall series, I wanted to create drinks that were wholly orthogonal to each other. In a course of drinks, each experience should be distinctive.

In my AB testing for this drink, I started with a butternut squash juice made by running fresh juice from the squash through a chemex filter. I do not suggest grilling the squash before making the juice. The resulting liquid has a clean, sweet, penetrating flavor of squash, and a pale orange color. I mixed it with Demerara 12 Year, brown sugar syrup, and a small measure of balsamic vinegar, and served it in a coupe glass rimmed with brown butter powder (see below).

The final product was intriguing but a little underwhelming. Although the butter brown powder was delicious as a “hook” for the concept, the flavor of the actual drink was average. The balsamic vinegar did add a nice contrast and dimension, but my competing concept was better.

fall_trio_orange

Colors of Fall: Orange (The Basic Bitch Cocktail)
1 oz Bourbon (Russell’s Reserve)
.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
1.5 oz Roasted Pumpkin Juice*
1 Dash Simple Syrup
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into a coupe glass. Top with “Basic Bitch Foam*” and Brown Butter Powder*.

Whew, that’s a lot to unpack. The combination of a foam, a powder, and a relatively complex may strike some as decadent or over the top. I assure you that it is.

Let’s start with the “Basic Bitch Foam”. I am sure most internet denizens have seen this viral video by now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaghIdSJKvQ
One of the hallmarks of the basic bitch is the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, or PSL. For this foam, I made a pumpkin spice mélange and mixed it into maple syrup, lemon, egg white, and xanthan gum. I have found that foams work much better with a little xanthan gum for stabilization. Moreover, xanthan gum can be dispersed in liquids much more easily if you first make a slurry of xanthan gum and a small amount of sugar. This recipe is approximate, as I made the foam to taste:

Basic Bitch Foam
100 ml egg whites
350 ml Maple Syrup
50 ml lemon juice
6 g pumpkin spice mélange (cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, nutmeg, clove, star anise)
1 g Xanthan Gum in a slurry with 5g of white sugar*
Combine lemon, maple syrup, and spice mélange. Make a slurry of xanthan gum and sugar, and then disperse it into the maple syrup mixture. Add the egg whites and then pour into an iSi Whipped Cream Canister. Charge with two n02 cartridges and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge.

For the brown butter powder, I followed this recipe at Chefsteps:

Brown Butter Powder
225 g Butter, unsalted
100 g Tapioca Maltodextrin
20 g Powdered sugar
2.5 g Salt, kosher
Brown the butter, add the sugar and salt, and then combine in a food processor with tapioca maltodextrin.

By volume, this recipe made significantly more powder than I wanted. In the future, I will cut this recipe in half.

Roasted Pumpkin Juice
Cut a pumpkin into pieces, roast about 10% of it in the oven and then mash it into a purée. Run the rest of it, raw, through a juicer, and blend the purée into the juice a little at a time, until you find a balanced flavor and a slightly thicker texture. I’m sorry, it’s hard to be more specific than that. When it’s right, you’ll know.

Next time I make it, I’ll note the weights of raw vs. roasted pumpkin, and update this post. For now, I enjoy the idea of drinks which require a personal touch and an idiosyncratic treatment. If you prepare this drink, you will have to rely on your own senses, and you will end up with a creation which is a little bit more your own.

Cheers.


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Colors of Fall Cocktails: Red

I wanted to capture the feeling and the essence of the autumn season in a series of drinks that celebrate both its flavors and the colors. In that vein, I have continued to draw my inspiration from the Japanese concept of Shiki, which I learned at Bar Gen Yamamoto.

This drink takes inspiration from the classic Bacardi Cocktail, which is a daquiri made with Bacardi and sweetened with grenadine instead of simple syrup. Long-time readers may remember that I have experimented with the idea of a cranberry daiquiri in the past, only at that time I preferred to think of it as a Rum Cosmopolitan. I have learned a lot since then, and I can say with confidence that this iteration of the concept is much more refined. The flavors are tight, complex, and yet easily approachable.

fall_trio_red

Colors of Fall: Red
1.5 oz Light Rum (Cruzan Aged Light Rum)
1.5 oz Cranberry Reduction*
.5 oz Fresh Grenadine*
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Shake over ice and double strain into an old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange peel.

In some ways this recipe seems very simple, though one can find an opportunity for artistry. In this drink it lies not behind the bar, but in the kitchen. For the cranberry reduction, simmer cranberries in a bit of water until they are soft and falling apart, and then blend them into a puree and work them through a strainer. I did not measure this, though I did stir it. It is easily reproducible if you follow your sense of taste. Cooking the cranberries brings out their natural bitter, sour, and earthy flavors, which we wish to accentuate.

A long and slow cook is ideal here, in order to concentrate the flavor. Too much heat will destroy it. Do not add sugar to the cranberries. We will find our source of sweetness in grenadine, which is made from fresh pomegranate juice. The pomegranate, like the cranberry, has a tart and earthy flavor, so it pairs well with the relatively naked cranberries, and saves the drink from being too one-noted.

For the grenadine, I followed Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s method. It is stellar. I chose to omit the orange flower water in this drink, though I did garnish with an orange peel.

The end result resembles a homemade cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving dinner. Preparing the drink is easy, but you will only have good results if you are attentive to detail when fabricating your grenadine and cranberry sauce. These things must be made according to one’s own good taste.

I tried this with a variety of different rums, and I found that the best was the simplest. And although I did not prefer it, I was intrigued when I substituted a half ounce of the rum in this drink with El Dorado 3 Year. The caramel notes of the demerara rum add complexity, but for me they took away from the central flavor of the cranberry.

Angostura bitters create a subtle spice note, to help impart a warming sensation in the cold of fall.

Cheers.


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The Broken Shaker Craft Cocktail Bar in Miami

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I had the pleasure of visiting Miami this past weekend, and while I was there I made it a point to check up on the local craft cocktail scene. Wouldn’t you? Regrettably I was only able to visit one bar while I was there, but it was a worthwhile one. In fact I was pleasantly surprised; when I think of Miami, I think of long island iced teas and flair-tending, ala Federico here:

 

So imagine my surprise, and my delight, when I walked into the Broken Shaker in South Beach Miami and saw this lovely array of bottles, tinctures, fresh herbs, and vintage tiki wares:

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Ambience is important, of course, but the real meat of the matter, as always, is the menu, which I want to commend on several levels. In the past I had the probably annoying habit of wanting to order off menu, but as I have spent more time developing cocktail menus for different events, I have really come to appreciate the thought and the effort that goes into creating a well-balanced menu.

That said, many establishments simply do not invest the proper time attention when they create their menus. A good cocktail menu, as we have discussed, should be short and sweet. It’s better to have a menu with three excellent drinks than ten average ones. Moreover, too many choices will overwhelm customers and cause them to underrate their decision, regardless of what they order.

The bar manager at The Broken Shaker not only delivered a menu that was tight and to the point, but also one with a good variety of interesting and creative drinks.

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Look at this beauty. I can honestly say that I would like to try all of them. Each drink has something different and interesting about it, and there is a good cross section of different flavors and styles. Unfortunately I was pressed for time, and I was only able to sample their rum and coke, which intrigued me with the promise of a house-made cola syrup.

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Observe the attention to detail in their presentation, which used a red and white paper straw. Their syrup was spicy and balanced, an excellent improvement on the more classic flavor of coca cola. The advantage to a home-made syrup like this is that it can emphasize the flavors of whole spices and fresh citrus botanicals from lemon, lime, and orange peel.

The only disadvantage to this bar was that even at 3pm, they were packed. That’s a good problem to have, but it made me sad as I would have liked to grill the bartenders a little more about their techniques and philosophies.

If you find yourself in South Beach Miami, definitely try to visit The Broken Shaker.

Cheers!